Safety, straight people, and capitalism are keeping these locals from marching.
Anita Brompton* has called the Church-Wellesley Village home for the past three years. Yet, when Pride Toronto’s annual festival rolls in later this month, Brompton says they won’t be marching.
They’re not alone in skipping out on the sweaty weekend pilgrimage. For reasons both political and practical, queer and transgender Torontonians are turning away from Pride Toronto’s crowds to observe and honour their identities privately.
Here’s how four of them are celebrating Private Prides this year.
1 Anita Brompton*
GENDER PRONOUNS: they/them/their
Brompton, a 32-year-old University of Toronto engineering student, had volunteered for World Pride and marched in previous years.
“It was very crowded and loud. People were spraying others with water and it didn’t seem consensual,” Brompton says.
As someone with a sensitivity to sound, the blaring club music and copious use of megaphones was unbearable. They also note how incense at certain events also made Pride inaccessible for those with sensory disabilities.
For Brompton, Pride also means the Village will be a high-risk area for street harassment, and “random drunk people” would cause safety concerns. “There are only two times a year when I don’t feel safe in my community: Halloween and Pride,” they add.
Instead of going to Pride: Brompton recommends time not marching could be better spent reflecting on LGBTQ history, and what it means to come out over and over in the process of becoming “one’s true self.”
“I tend to express my rainbow colours more,” Brompton says. “I might wear my rainbow socks.”
2 Hanna Elizabeth Dees
GENDER PRONOUNS: she/her and they/them/their
Hanna Elizabeth Dees likens her first Pride to a spiritual experience. She was 19, amazed by the sheer number of queer, transgender, Two-Spirit, and asexual people surrounding her. Now a 25-year-old nanny, Dees finds herself unable to march because anxiety currently prevents her from being around large groups of people.
The festival was also was inaccessible for Dee, who was a volunteer for a previous Dyke March. Tasked to write a mission statement about how diverse Pride was, Dees found that the mostly white leadership, lack of honorarium for full-time work, and meetings in buildings that were not wheelchair-accessible told a different story. She ended up quitting because of an intense bout of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
“Organizing the Dyke March felt like running a business… there was little time to stop and check in about how we were feeling,” Dee says.
Pride’s increasing corporate partnerships, allowance of police presence, and accessibility concerns have only further complicated Dees’ feelings towards the event.
Pride Toronto runs accessibility services throughout its festivities, which address physical barriers, ASL interpretation, and wheelchair access. The gamut of services isn’t enough for Dees, who recommends more sober spaces, harm reduction tents, and food provided to the homeless who are displaced by the Parade route.
Instead of going to Pride: Hanna has a tradition of hosting a queer BBQ with friends.
“We sit around and critique Pride, listen to music, chat about our lives, and pet my dog,” Dee says. “Forming long lasting connections and prioritizing our emotional selves within Pride is revolutionary and anti-capitalist in its own way.”
3 Hyo An
GENDER PRONOUNS: he/him/his
Six years ago, Hyo An turned to the Village as refuge from his former home of Fenelon Falls, a small village in Kawartha Lakes. An, 25, describes the rural Ontario community as “hostile towards racialized and queer youth” and says he was physically attacked on the street because of his identity.
An decided moving to Toronto would be safer for him. However, lack of support in his new life led to a crack-cocaine addiction and one-night stands in the Village.
“It felt like I was YOLOing everything and had little care for myself,” An says. “I didn’t enjoy a lot of those sexual experiences.”
An tried to attend Pride numerous times, but would only stay for less than half an hour. White men there would assume he “bottomed” because he was Asian and tell him so. At the height of Psy popularity, a gaggle of men at the 2012 Pride March commanded he dance Gangnam Style for them.
An’s experiences aren’t new to Pride administration. Pride Toronto Co-chair Aaron Glynwilliams spoke at City Hall’s flag-raising on how LGBTQ communities could be “especially discriminating” against racialized queer and trans people, among other intersectional identities.
As a person with substance abuse struggles and other stressors, An, who has been sober for the past three years, remembers leaving Pride thinking that it wasn’t meant for people like him.
“I thought people would be more open-minded here,” An says. “I started to realize ‘this is not my crowd.’”
Instead of going to Pride: An may spend time hitting up Church Street bars or hanging out at home.
GENDER PRONOUNS: him/him/his and they/them/their
For Zach, a 26-year-old research assistant who goes by his first name, Pride is a spectacle in all the wrong ways.
“It’s one of those things that I like the idea of, but in reality, it just isn’t enjoyable,” Zach says. “It feels like the straight cis[gender] people are staring at us like we’re animals at the zoo.”
At last year’s Trans March, Zach felt as if he was being ogled at in a condescending way.
“It rather felt like an awkward stroll where strangers stared at us and clapped in an ‘aren’t you so brave’ kind of manner that induces the icky feelings,” Zach says. “Like what were we even there for?”
Initially, Zach called Pride “not political enough,” and condemned the march for prioritizing big parties over intersectional struggle. But in light of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead, Zach says he’s more understanding of those who are partying for Pride—even if it’s not for him.
Instead of going to Pride: Like last year, Zach hopes to go to a beach party with trans friends who feel similar disenfranchised with Pride. His private Pride, which has more in common with Toronto Pride’s origins, will be away from the cisgender heterosexual gaze.
“I think it’s important to celebrate our pride, but I think that the celebration can be just for us. Not for the cis-hets [cisgender heterosexuals], not for [major corporations].”
*Name has been changed to protect individual’s safety and undue gender/sexuality outing.